Greg Hay is as good an example as any of how defense has changed in college football.
Size is out of fashion; speed is the name of the game.
Hay, a starter at outside linebacker for the University of Toledo, is 6-foot-2, 200 pounds.
That's not particularly big. With the exception of the tackle position, though, defense no longer demands size.
"It's all about team speed," UT coach Tom Amstutz said. "It didn't used to be the case, at least not as much, but we recruit linebackers based on athletic ability. Greg is a good athlete who is also a real hard-nosed player."
Defenses have been transformed from back to front.
A kid who used to be recruited as a cornerback is now a safety. Safeties are now outside linebackers. Outside backers play inside. One-time inside linebackers are defensive ends.
UT does not have a linebacker among its top eight who weighs more than 230 pounds. None is taller than 6-3.
They maintain their time-honored role in run defense, but are quick enough to adjust and be used as pass defenders against spread offenses.
Hay has started the last five games for UT, which returns to action Tuesday night at Northern Illinois, and is fourth on the team in tackles with 45. He and his opposite starter at outside backer, 6-2, 212-pound Mike Alston, have combined for 19 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including 10 sacks.
A junior from Walled Lake, Mich., Hay was penciled in as a backup at season's start. Alston and Mike Chamberlain were returning starters who made outside linebacker one of UT's most solid defensive positions.
But Chamberlain went down with an injury, and Hay has become a dominant player. In UT's recent win over Akron, Hay had a team-high seven tackles, three for losses.
"He's a high-energy player who never gets tired and never stops attacking," UT safety Barry Church said of Hay. "When Greg gets on the field, he becomes a different person."
Off of it, Hay is soft-spoken, perhaps even laid back.
"You have to switch it on and off," Hay said. "And you'd better have it switched on when you run on the field because it's a battle out there. Either you're going to be hit or you're going to do the hitting, so you have to be a warrior. I just do the best I can and play one play at a time as hard as I can.
"I had a different role at the start of the season. I knew I had to be ready to play. When Mike got hurt, I wanted to make sure when I stepped in that the defense didn't skip a beat."
While UT has struggled to a 3-6 record, the defense has been put in a number of bad positions and is better than opponents' 30.9-point scoring average might indicate. The Rockets are allowing just 16 yards per game more than they did a year ago when leading the Mid-American Conference in total defense.
That's despite seven freshmen showing up on the two-deep defensive roster.
"I think we've done pretty well," Hay said, "when you consider all the guys we had to replace and all the freshmen who have stepped up. All the experience those guys are getting now will really pay off."
Hay picked UT over all the Michigan-based MAC schools because of "the winning tradition. I wanted to play in a program like this. We've been a little down this year, but we intend to finish the season on a high note and come out strong and be back on top next year."
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